Back in my Peace Corps years, we were all eager to change the world. At least over a thousand of us who were in India in the mid to late sixties, but that all changed when Indira Gandhi sent us home. I have been back to India on two different occasions over the past decade. Technology has played a major role in India’s economic growth as a source of customer service and technical support to the rest of the world. But now many current local Indian authorities are increasingly clamping down on Internet and telecommunications access across the country. They have cited national security as the primary reason for restricting access. It also seems that local and state officials can conjure up other rationales. In one case, officials suspended social media apps to prevent cheating during a state exam for government accountant positions.
If India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to show American investors that his country has “the most open economy in the world,” he would do well to address these local practices from the national level. As I was often reminded during those Peace Corps years, India is the world’s largest democracy! The Indian government has taken steps to bring the country into the 21st Century: Its policies to reduce red tape, attract foreign businesses and expand digital services have enormous potential. It would be a shameful regression if these reforms fail to reach that potential because of suspended WiFi.
I know that Prime Minister Modi is not trying to change the world like those idealistic Peace Corps Volunteers of the sixties, but I believe that he can do something to preserve India’s digital future.
Ray Myers India 29